Transparency, Brought to You by the Cell Phone

Flickr photosWe seem to hear about, and experience, the transparency of the internet every day. We read blogs critical of products and companies, check price comparison sites before purchases, review data on corporate political contributions, and choose hotels based on guest reviews. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a slide show is worth ten thousand, and Influxinsights just put me onto ten thousand that a couple of retailers would prefer not to exist. After a trip to Kohl’s in one case, and Wal-Mart in another, two would-be customers decided the condition of the stores was so horrendous as to deserve a public dressing-down. They each posted pictures, and some of these companies’ brand equity that was carefully built up over the course of years was chipped away.

While a negative blog post about either one of these two stores could have been damaging, pictures had a much greater impact. These episodes prove that there is no such thing as “an isolated incident.” Of course, it’s hard to imagine that either store lost business over these postings, but I have no doubt that some Kohl’s and Wal-Mart employees lost sleep (at the very least). On the other hand, imagine if these pictures were of a product caught failing or malfunctioning – it would be devastating ( e.g. the Kryptonite lock). All sorts of companies are subject to complaints and exposés all the time, but with every customer walking around with a camera in her pocket, the margin for error is now a lot smaller.

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